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Review: Custom-Fit Tunisian Crochet on Craftsy

Dora Ohrenstein's Custom-Fit Tunisian Crochet Craftsy class reviewed by Underground Crafter

This post contains affiliate links. Although I’m a Craftsy affiliate, and I earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) when you click through the links I share to Craftsy and make a purchase, I paid to take this course and, as always, the review is based entirely on my honest opinions.

This must be Tunisian crochet week on my blog! (Check out my mini interview with Sharon Silverman about her new book, Tunisian Crochet for Baby, here.)

I recently completed Dora Ohrenstein’s Custom-Fit Tunisian Crochet class on Craftsy. In the past, I’ve interviewed Dora on my blog here and shared reviews of two of her books, Custom Crocheted Sweaters (review here) and The New Tunisian Crochet (review here). She let me know back in May when the class was first available, but I didn’t have time to sit down and watch it until recently.

The class includes 7 lessons:

Lesson 1: Tunisian Basics (29:32 minutes) provides a refresher of two basic Tunisian crochet stitches (Tunisian knit and Tunisian simple stitches), increasing, decreasing, counting rows, starting a base row, the standard return pass, and the slip stitch bind off. I enjoyed learning more about Dora’s method for decreasing, and actually incorporated the technique into one of my own designs.

The video in this section alternates between close ups and more conversational views of Dora talking.

Dora Ohrenstein's Custom-Fit Tunisian Crochet Craftsy class reviewed by Underground Crafter

Dora providing a refresher of basic Tunisian crochet stitches.

Lesson 2: Tunisian Tools (13:43 minutes) includes an overview of different yarns and hooks for Tunisian crochet. Dora emphasizes choosing tools for the best drape. She also talks about gauge and provides some tips for getting the right gauge in this section.

Lesson 3: Measuring for a Perfect Fit (23:12 minutes) applies to any type of handmade garment measuring.

Dora Ohrenstein's Custom-Fit Tunisian Crochet Craftsy class reviewed by Underground Crafter

Dora demonstrating proper measurement techniques.

Dora shows the correct way to take measurements from a body, her dress form Claudette, and existing garments. This section is very helpful, especially for those of us that haven’t had a lot of experience with doing measurements and want to create the great fit. You can see Dora wearing the vest project for this class in the picture above. You can buy a kit for the vest here, and the pattern is only available through the class.

Lesson 4: Adjusting the Pattern (23:04 minutes) is a detailed walk through of the pattern. The video in this section usually focuses on the pattern itself, with relevant areas highlighted or enlarged while Dora talks about that component. While this is obviously specifically about the vest pattern, Dora shares a lot of information about fitting, pattern alternations, and understanding schematics that could apply to any pattern you may work with in the future.

Dora Ohrenstein's Custom-Fit Tunisian Crochet Craftsy class reviewed by Underground Crafter

In Lesson 5: Custom-Fit Calculations: Bust & Shoulder (35:53 minutes) and Lesson 6: Custom Fit Considerations: Waist & Hip (18:40 minutes), Dora goes into further detail about how to customize the pattern to fit your body (or the body of someone you are gifting or selling the finished project to). In these section, she talks about ease, measurements, how to adjust increases, decreases, and stitch counts, and (don’t be afraid, Americans) provides a review of the math necessary. She shows her math equations on screen (as well as the times she counts on her fingers) so that even those who are uncomfortable with math should be able to use these lessons to alter the pattern.

Dora Ohrenstein's Custom-Fit Tunisian Crochet Craftsy class reviewed by Underground Crafter

In Lesson 7: Finishing Details (35:02), Dora goes over everything required to make your finished vest look “professional” – blocking, seaming, edging, cleaning, and so on.

At $29.99 with just under 3 hours of video, this class is a great value. In addition to the video lessons, the vest pattern, and some additional handouts, you have the opportunity to interact with fellow students and ask Dora questions. Unlike a face-to-face class, you can return to the videos again and again over time.

Although the class is focused on the vest pattern, Dora shares a lot of general information about gauge, fitting, measurements, altering patterns, and finishing that can apply to any project. She has a very calm voice and shares her sense of humor with the class on several occasions.

The only changes I’d like to see in the class are consistent with what I would like to see changed in Craftsy classes in general. I wish they would edit the videos into shorter segments, or break them up with music or visuals more often. Yes, of course, I can pause at any time, but as someone with an increasingly short video attention span (thanks a lot, YouTube!), I found the segments pretty long for watching straight through. I also wish there was more variety in the actual filming. The class basically alternates between watching Dora behind a desk, over the shoulder close ups (of her hands, the pattern being annotated, etc.) and Dora standing to take measurements. I wish there was more variety in backgrounds and use of illustrations or animation. These aren’t deal breakers – as I said, it is consistent with the way Craftsy classes are filmed. They tend to look like public television craft shows filmed on a static set, rather than funky videos you might find elsewhere online.

Overall, I highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to go beyond the basics in Tunisian crochet; crocheters who struggle with (or fear) custom fitting, measurements, and the math behind alterations; and fans of Dora’s work who haven’t had a chance to take a class with her. You can sign up for Custom-Fit Tunisian Crochet (with Dora Ohrenstein) here!

Review: Lazadas Blocking Wires

Recently, I was invited by astridl on Ravelry to review a set of blocking wires from her company, Lazadas. Since, like many crocheters, I have a love/hate relationship with blocking, I thought I’d share the review as part of my celebration of (Inter)National Crochet Month.

Blocking wires1

When the package arrived, I discovered that Lazadas Knitting Accessories is based in Israel.  Not to worry, as their products ship worldwide with a flat $5 fee.

Blocking wires2

The sets come in small packages with snap closures and handles.

Blocking wires3

The set package has a gusset so it can stand on its own.

Blocking wires4

I tried out the Mix Set, which includes four 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, three 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and 30 nickel plated T-pins.

There are three other sets available.  The Short Set includes ten 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, and is recommended for shawlettes, sleeves, sweaters, and cardigans.  The Long Set includes five 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and is recommended for stoles, big shawls, and baby blankets. Both sets include 30 nickel plated T-pins, and, like the Mix Set, are priced at $28.90.  The Deluxe Set includes ten 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, five 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and 60 nickel plated T-pins and is priced at $56.

Blocking wires5

The wires are coiled and the package (wisely) advises you to carefully open them.

So… back to my love/hate relationship with blocking.  I only started blocking my crochet a few years ago when I started designing. As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer spray blocking. I don’t like my projects to get that “overblocked” look, so I generally avoid wet blocking and “killing” the fabric with steam. (If you’d like to try either of those methods, Tamara Kelly shares tutorials on wet blocking and steam blocking on the Moogly blog.)

blog Pineapples unblocked

To test out the wires, I chose this version of my Pineapples for Everyone Shawl pattern (available for free here in English and here in Italian).  This shawl is crocheted with SHOKAY Orient in Cerulean.  As you can tell from the pre-blocking picture above, it is a bit “squishy” looking and the pineapples aren’t very opened up.

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocking

Thankfully, simple instructions are included in the set as I’d never used blocking wires before.

In the past, I’ve applied seemingly endless amounts of pins across the edges of my projects. For this shawl, I used one 70″ (180 cm) wire for each side.  (If you look closely at the bottom of the picture above, you can see the excess of the wires sticking out.) With the wires, I could pin to shape just a few times and let the wires do their work.  I was also able to bend the wires on the bottom edges and pin them to allow the pineapples on the edges to fan out.

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocked

Here’s the shawl after blocking.  You can see that the edges are more defined, and it is less “squishy.”

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocked detail

The pineapples are completely opened up and they look great.

I have since used these wires to block several other projects, including two baby blankets, which I can’t share on the blog yet.  In each case, I found the process significantly easier than pin blocking alone, and the results were much neater looking.

I would highly recommend Lazadas Blocking Wires.  The package is small enough to be portable – with the gusset folded flat, it can easily flat.  At the same time, it stands up so you can find it on your shelf.  The wires are very flexible and easy to uncoil and recoil (carefully, that is).  The T-pins can easily be positioned so that they hold the wires in place. The instructions are straightforward and effective.

As for sizes, thus far, I have used the 70″ (180 cm) wires for everything except for squares/motifs.  I like having extra room on the edges, so the 35″ (90 cm) wires feel too short for most of my projects.  I have used the 35″ (90 cm) wires to block several squares at once.

I should also note that with one particularly fiddly blanket that I blocked, I needed more than the 30 pins in the set, so I used the quilting pins that I relied on previously to pin the rest of it.

If I were buying a set, I’d probably purchase the Long Set or the Deluxe Set, but if you mostly make smaller projects, the Short or Mix sets could work.  Thanks to the Lazadas Blocking Wires, I am now leaning much more closely towards a love/love relationship with blocking!

Edited to add: You can also find Lazadas on Etsy. The Etsy shop includes the blocking wire sets and other knitting accessories such as stitch markers, sock blockers, and needles.  (There are even a few crochet hooks.)

Full disclosure: A free review sample of this product was provided by Lazadas. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Yarn Review: Mountain Colors Twizzle

Back in November, the folks at Mountain Colors Yarns sent me these two hanks of a new-to-me yarn, Twizzle, to play with.

Mountain Colors Twizzle

I loved the look of this yarn so much that I had to snap a picture right away in the post office.  Twizzle is very soft – a fiber content of 85% Merino wool and 15% silk will do that.  The beautiful colors, which unfortunately, are not perfectly captured in this picture, are hand painted.  According to the Mountain Colors website, Logan Berry, on the left, is a “20 Year Vintage Color” and includes reds, tangerine, and purple.  Swift Current, on the right, includes dark navy blues with deep purple, pink and green.

It didn’t seem right to review a yarn without actually trying it out, so my first step was to wind the yarn.

Mountain Colors Twizzle Swift Current

I’m happy to say that both skeins wound up quickly and there were no tangles or knots in the yarn.

Since it was so close to the holidays, I decided to try the yarn out by making a holiday gift – a crescent shawlette for my sister.  I cast on about 10 times, experimenting with different needles and stitch patterns until I could find the right tension and a stitch pattern simple enough to showcase the yarn but interesting enough to keep me from napping.  Through all the ripping back and re-casting on, the yarn kept its shape and didn’t pill or split. 

Twizzle has a great feel, and unlike many soft yarns, it didn’t seem too loosely spun.  The colors are great and I love the tweedy look.  According to the website, it’s the “wool yarn plied with a strand of silk that creates a heathered effect.”

Soon, a lovely shawlette was flying off the needles.  A little too fast, actually.

Crescent shawl blog

In my haste (and because I was watching a very dramatic television show at the same time), I didn’t leave enough Swift Current to bind off with.  I didn’t want to rip back (after all, who wants to redo that last row of the shawl, the one with tons of stitches, again?), so I decided to try out the Logan Berry for the bind off.  Surprisingly, the two colors combined beautifully.  So much so that neither my sister nor mother realized it was a different color on the edge.

Mountain Colors Twizzle Shawlette flat

Each hank is a healthy size – 100 grams and approximately 250 yards.  The Mountain Colors website recommends size 4-6 (3.5-4 mm) needles, but I used size 11 (8 mm) needles.  I think I would probably use a size 9 (5.5 mm) for knitting a hat or scarf.  Admittedly, I tend to have a tight tension, but even Ravelry calls this a worsted weight yarn.

If you want to try out some Twizzle for yourself, you can find the list of shops carrying it here.  Mountain Colors also has 8 Twizzle patterns available where the yarn is sold, including the Twizzle Beanie (a one skein project) and the Back to Basics Pullover, which are also available online.  Overall, I would recommend Twizzle as an excellent luxury yarn.  It’s beautiful but also has enough yardage for you to make a nice project (such as my shawlette) with one skein.

Now I just have to wait and see what that Logan Berry skein wants to become…

Mountain Colors Twizzle Loganberry

Full disclosure: Two free samples of this product was provided by Mountain Colors. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. You can read my complete review disclosure here.

Crochet Hooks Review: Addi Swing and Comfort Hooks

Back in March, I did a series of crochet hook reviews and giveaways as part of National Crochet Month.  The generous folks at the Skacel Collection were also kind enough to send me some hooks to review, but I haven’t had a chance to post the review until now.

Crochet hooks donated by the Skacel Collection, including Addi Swing (left) and Addi Comfort Hooks (right).

You may remember that I first tried an Addi Swing hook last year, during my trip to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Loop Addi Swing detail 2012-05-15

My first Addi Swing.

I’ll admit that at first, I was kind of wondering what the big deal was all about.  It turns out that I just needed to get used to the unusual shape of the Addi Swing, and then I found myself crocheting with it more and more.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Swing, it has a heavily curved handle made with two different textures of plastics.

The Addi Swing in US size A, donated by Skacel Collection.

The Addi Swing in US size A.

The hook handles are color coded, so if you have more than one, it’s easy to find the size you want.  (As you can see from the detailed picture above, the millimeter size of the hook is also clearly displayed on the end of the handle.)  Although the handles are large, they are lightweight.  The hooks feature a not inline point and throat.  Because the handle covers most of the hook, the shaft is very short.  This would be a great comfort hook for someone who likes a curved hook shape or a thicker handle along with a not inline hook.

I find that the large, brightly colored Addi Swing handle makes it much more difficult to lose than other hooks, which helps for those of us who crochet on the go!  On the downside, the relatively short shaft makes it difficult to form bullions and other stitches which require a longer shaft with this hook.

The Addi Swings are available in US Sizes A through L, and generally retail for about $13-$14.

Addi hooks

The Addi Comfort Hooks are another option for the crocheter who needs a longer shaft for forming different types of stitches.  Like the Swing, this hook handle also features two colors of plastic, making it easier to find the right size.  As with the Swing, the hook itself is a not inline shape with a curved point and throat.  The plastic handle is hardened but provides that extra thickness I look for in a comfort hook handle.  The more conventional shape of this handle means that it is easier to adapt to than the Swing.  These hooks are available in US sizes A through I, and typically retail at about $7.

You may be wondering if I will be offering a giveaway of these great hooks.  The answer is that I already did :).  I actually included these in the prize pack I mailed to yarnpumpkin for the Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL.

Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL prize pack, including hooks provided by Skacel Collection and yarn provided by Galler Yarns.

Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL prize pack, including hooks provided by Skacel Collection and yarn provided by Galler Yarns.

Yarnpumpkin was kind enough to share the picture she took of her wonderful prizes.

Full disclosure: Four free review samples of this product was provided by Skacel Collection. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. You can read my complete review disclosure here.

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: Lantern Moon Featherlight Hooks

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features Featherlight crochet hooks, along with a giveaway for one hook, courtesy of Lantern Moon Handcrafted.

Lantern Moon has a beautiful, sustainably produced wooden hook for all of you inline hook lovers!

Lantern Moon Featherlight crochet hook.

Lantern Moon Featherlight crochet hook.

The Featherlight is made with an eco-friendly wood with a rich, dark color.  Like most inline hooks, it has a flat throat.  The hook has a long thumb rest.  I found the tip to be slightly pointier than most inline hooks, which I liked.  The end of the handle has a nice decorative look to it.

The wood is finished smoothly, and has a wonderful feeling against the hand.  As the name suggests, it is very light weight.  According to Lantern Moon, the wood is “organically treated to add density and hardness.” The hook size (in US letter, number, and mm) is written in white towards the center of the handle, and is highly visible against the contrast of the dark wood.

There aren’t any unusual features on the handle that change its shape, so this hook would be ideal for all different types of crochet.  You could even make a small Tunisian crochet project on this hook, because while the thumb rest is long, it doesn’t taper outwards as so many do so it wouldn’t stretch out your stitches.

This would be a great hook for a crocheter who prefers an inline hook, who prefers purchasing eco-friendly and ethically produced products, and/or who enjoys the comfortable feeling of a wooden hook.

The hooks are available in US letter sizes from D through K.  The retail price of the hooks are $18.90.

And, it’s no secret that I love my Tulip Etimo crochet hooks.  These are probably the set I use most regularly.  Lantern Moon is now U.S. distributor for these and other Tulip products!

Full disclosure: A free review sample of this product was provided by Lantern Moon. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. You can read my complete review disclosure here.

Giveaway

When I contacted the nice folks at Lantern Moon to tell them about my plans to review a variety of crochet hooks during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along a Featherlight US size I-9/5.5 mm hook for a giveaway for one lucky reader.

Lantern Moon prize pack

This giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, April 6, 2013.